Exclusive interview: John Barnes on why Roberto Firmino is Liverpool FC’s most important player
We spoke to John Barnes about Liverpool FC's form and the importance of Roberto Firmino to Jurgen Klopp's side
We sat down for a chat with John Barnes to discuss Liverpool FC’s start to the season and whether the Reds will be able to juggle a Champions League run with a Premier League title challenge.
The Liverpool FC legend, who was speaking exclusively to The Sport Review for bookmaker comparison platform BonusCodeBets.co.uk, also opened up about Roberto Firmino’s importance to the Anfield outfit, and praised Xherdan Shaqiri for his start to life on Merseyside.
On Joe Gomez’s solid form…
“I’ve been impressed with Joe Gomez ever since he’s been at the club. What he needed was a leading figure beside him, which he now has with Virgil van Dijk. And of course the goalkeeper [Alisson Becker] has helped to stabilise the defence.”
On whether Trent Alexander-Arnold can play in midfield…
“For Jurgen Klopp he could [play in midfield], maybe not for anybody else. What Klopp wants from his midfield players is good defensive capabilities, hard work and effort.
“Trent can do that, he can be a holding midfield player in the Liverpool team Klopp wants. I’m sure if he was called upon in that role, he’d be able to do it comfortably.”
On Xherdan Shaqiri’s start to life at Anfield…
“I didn’t think Shaqiri was ever really going to come in and be the first name on the team-sheet, so of course it was a slow start because he’s not been a regular starter. But every time he’s come on, he’s been fantastic. He’s come into an environment which suits him.
“I’ve been pleasantly surprised by what he’s done. When he’s not been playing I thought that maybe his attitude wouldn’t have been great. But every time he’s asked to come on and play, he does what’s right for the team.”
On why Roberto Firmino is Liverpool FC’s most important player…
“Roberto Firmino is not a classic number nine. He’s not a centre forward like Ian Rush or Robert Lewandowski.
“In many respects, that’s why Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah have been doing well – because he vacates that central role and that allows them to make out-to-in runs in on goal rather than just going down the line. It’s a perfect system for what Jurgen Klopp wants.
“I think he’s Liverpool’s most important player. Salah has been fantastic and Mane and Van Dijk too… but from an attacking perspective, I think Firmino is our most important player.
“He’s got lots of energy, pace and strength. But he also gives us that intelligence to bring people into play. He also drops into midfield and works hard. He creates so much for Mane and Salah.”
On whether Liverpool FC will be able to challenge for both the Premier League and Champions League…
“I think they’ve got a much stronger squad this season when you look at the players who have come in. I think they can make a challenge on all fronts.
“But what I would say is that you can’t legislate for knockout matches because you could lose, no matter how good you are. The league shows you how good you are.
“You don’t necessarily have to be consistent to make a challenge in the Champions League because it depends on who you’re drawn against. You make a challenge in the Premier League, and the Champions League takes care of itself.
“The demands on Liverpool are to be consistent in the league, which they are doing, and make a push in the Champions League.
“The progress and future of Liverpool consistently challenging for honours means that they have to win football matches. And if you’re consistently winning football matches, it means that you’re close to winning the league.
“Look at Manchester City. How good were they last season? But unfortunately for them they had two bad games Liverpool in the Champions League and got knocked out.
“That doesn’t mean they weren’t the best team and weren’t consistent. It was a one-off and that can happen. For Liverpool, the league is much more important.”